Surviving the lunar night can be a challenge for astronauts
Surviving the lunar night can be a challenge for astronauts
As multiple nations plan their lunar exploration strategies, how best to survive the lunar night, space engineers are breaking into a cold sweat.
The lunar day/night cycle in most places on the surface includes fourteen The Earth days of continuous sunlight followed by fourteen days of constant darkness and intense cold.
Due to the lack of a temperate atmosphere, the temperatures of lunar surface it can range from 248 degrees Fahrenheit (120 Celsius) during the day to minus 292 F (minus 180 C) at night. Permanently shaded regions (PSR) included. The moon it can be even colder, dropping to minus 400 F (minus 240 C).
Connected: Artemis 1: The first step toward returning astronauts to the Moon
Pluses and minuses
All of these pros and cons add up to one of the most demanding environmental challenges future lunar expeditions will face. Achieving and earning longer and longer human sojourns—perhaps gaining permanent status—will mean dealing with the Moon’s vicious environment.
Actually craters inside permanently shaded regions are sunspots on the Moon that may contain large amounts of water ice. These deposits would be ideal for processing into oxygen, water, even rocket fuel.
Exploring the Moon planners lay out what needs to happen to operate successfully on the Moon, especially the PSR-laden lunar south pole and possibly a rich haven for water ice collection.
But here’s the cold, frosty fact: it’s not easy.
Read more: The strange warm pits of the moon are perhaps the most pleasant place for astronauts
Main problem, two branches
Dean Eppler, chief lunar scientist at The Aerospace Corporation, said surviving the night on the moon is not only a key issue for lunar south pole site, but for any place where we want to be on the moon longer than the lunar day.
“I think the main problem has two branches,” Eppler told Space.com. “Just survival during the lunar night and operations at night, whether it’s a ‘normal’ day-night cycle like you’d have anywhere but the poles, and the variable darkness you get at the poles because of the very low angle of the sun’s declination.”
Eppler said that for future missions, especially for landed missions beyond polar latitudes, the hug may still be the best solution for science operations.
“You don’t do field geology at night,” Eppler said, “but that’s likely to be the time to do ‘in-house’ activities, such as life sciences, sample analysis and destruction, engineering/technical work.” These are tasks , which are most often not performed during the day when crew members are engaged in maximizing their surface area, moonwalk operations, he said.
Eppler said he was optimistic about the reception of the moonlit night. “I think we’re much better equipped to deal with it now than at any other time we’ve considered lunar exploration.”
Although the survival of the lunar night outside the polar regions is still an issue, “I think we have that pretty well in hand, and that goes for the pole areas that are shadowed by existing terrain as the Sun moves across the sky.”
When it comes to the poles, however, Eppler sees a much more complex problem. First, there will be significant areas that will be shadowed by the terrain long enough that it will get very cold in those places – not PSR-cold, but still not unlike an equatorial night.
“Secondly, we will have to deal with the problems of operating in any PSR zone or zones that, although not in permanent shade, are still shaded much of the time, long enough to be bitterly cold inside them,” Eppler said. “It’s a huge challenge … so much so that I think we’ll need, for example, a special set of tools that we only use in cold conditions,” he added.
Dealing with ultra-cold shouldn’t be a difficult problem to solve, said Philip Metzger, a planetary scientist at the Florida Space Institute at the University of Central Florida.
“Even with just a little energy and good insulation, the vehicle can stay warm New Horizons spacecraft it kept its electronics at room temperature even when it was out of the sun PlutoMetzger told Space.com.
Their main question is where can we get energy on the moon?
For example, radioactive decay sources can be used. Radioactive Heating Units (RHUs) can be placed on the vehicle in appropriate locations, Metzger said. “Without a radioactive source, however, it becomes more of a challenge.”
Metzger envisions a standalone asset that has adequate battery capacity to provide “life-sustaining heat” at night. “A rover can turn on at night. After sunrise the asset will reload. It would take some mass on the Moon for adequate storage, but with the new lunar landers included SpaceX Starship coming online, it should be easily doable,” he said.
A good set of assumptions
Today’s data sets provide key clues about the moon’s temperature, advised Noah Petro of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. He is a project scientist for NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) mission now orbiting the Moon.
“Fortunately, the temperature data we have from LRO’s Diviner instrument has given us a fantastic set of bounding conditions for what to expect thermally at the poles. From this data set, we know the expected low temperatures at night and heat during the day,” said Petro.
As for the engineering capacity to recall hardware, Petro said that given that researchers have a good set of assumptions about the environment (temperature, radiation, etc.), he predicts that the question of surviving on the Moon may be based on an already mature understanding of engineering requirements for operation on moonlit nights.
A message from Apollo
Looking back at the 20th century Apollo era, there are lessons to be relearned, said Clive Neal, a lunar exploration expert in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana.
Neal points out that the Apollo Lunar Surface Experiment Package (ALSEP) consists of scientific instruments placed by moonwalkers on the landing site of each of the five Apollo lunar landing missions since Apollo 11; Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin left behind a smaller set of devices called the Early Apollo Science Experiment Package.
But Neal said the issue is, is solar the way to do that? Is battery technology good enough to allow moonlit night operations?
“For a lot of things, just surviving the night isn’t good enough,” Neal added. “We should be able to match what was done 50 years ago, in my humble opinion!”
What would it be like to walk and work on the lunar territory, Artemis-style?
For moonwalk suit systems, including boots, gloves and a backpack-like portable life support system, thermal design issues will be severe, said Eppler of The Aerospace Corporation.
“For example, say you’re standing up to your ankles in a very cold, shady area, but your legs, torso, etc. are in direct sunlight. You’ll need to make sure that the boots and clothing material don’t freeze and break, while also ensuring that the upper parts of the suit system don’t get so hot that serious heat stress to the crew member is a significant issue,” Eppler said. . “It’s a real problem.”
The good news, Eppler concludes, is that Artemis technologists are trying to survive the whole nocturnal state of affairs.
“That tells me we’re going to find solutions at some point,” Eppler said. “The point where you get into trouble is when people don’t understand or accept the scale of the problem … but I don’t think that’s the case here,” he concluded.
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